Preach the gospel at all times – use actions when necessary
(St.) Francis was a preacher. And the type of preacher who would alarm us today. “Hell, fire, brimstone” would not be an inaccurate description of his style.
My studies recently have me in Romans 1 and that which has been most notable the last couple of days has been the preeminency and necessity of preaching the gospel, for this, the preaching of the cross of Christ, is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.
But, preaching has fallen on hard times. We’re far more enamored with dramas, entertainments, music… anything but preaching the cross of Christ. We somehow think that we can live our lives without speaking to others of Christ and that they will see our lifestyles and ask us what is different about us. Like Voddie Baucham says, “My neighbor is not going to see me mowing my grass and come up and ask me ‘Something’s different about you. What is it?'” No, we have to speak of the gospel, and back it up with our lives, not the other way around.
I suppose that there is a pervasive attitude among us that sincerely hopes that others will ask us about our spiritual lives, but the chance of that is very slim. This attitude is embodied in the famous quote, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which says, “Preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary.” As this article in Christianity Today points out, however, St. Francis probably never uttered these words, and in fact, Francis was anything but a quiet and subtle evangelist.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the article.
He apparently was a bit of a showman. He imitated the troubadours, employing poetry and word pictures to drive the message home. When he described the Nativity, listeners felt as if Mary was giving birth before their eyes; in rehearsing the crucifixion, the crowd (as did Francis) would shed tears.
Contrary to his current meek and mild image, Francis’s preaching was known for both his kindness and severity. One moment, he was friendly and cheerful—prancing about as if he were playing a fiddle on a stick, or breaking out in song in praise to God and his creation. Another moment, he would turn fierce: “He denounced evil whenever he found it,” wrote one early biographer, “and made no effort to palliate it; from him a life of sin met with outspoken rebuke, not support. He spoke with equal candor to great and small.”
Paul was not ashamed of the gospel and he desired to take it to Rome, the center of persecution against Christians. He also testified that he was not afraid to take it to Jerusalem, where he knew the result would be imprisonment and suffering. The point is that he would not have suffered these things for just “being” a Christian; just living out the Christian life. He suffered because Christianity has exclusive claims and it must be spoken.
May we each have the grace and boldness to evangelize in our circle of influences and in the world.